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Lesbians targeted by men who want to 'straighten them out'

Published:Wednesday | December 3, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Nadine Wilson-Harris

Staff Reporter

A recent study has shown that 47 per cent of lesbian and bisexual women in Jamaica
have faced threats of sexual violence, actual sexual violence and/or sexual harassment
by men, with the intention, in some cases, to "straighten them out".

The study, which was carried out by local human-rights advocacy group Quality of
Citizenship Jamaica (QCJ), was conducted online this year. Of 103 respondents surveyed,
23 per cent indicated that the sexual violation happened after they came out as
lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

Latoya Nugent, the education manager for the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals
and Gays (J-FLAG), said corrective rape is a growing problem for lesbians and bisexual
women in Jamaica.

Of the eight sexual-violence reports, the organisation received between January
2013 and November 2013, for example, seven were perpetrated against women and one
was perpetrated against a man.

"Some persons have indicated that it was because of their sexual orientation, and
because there is a belief that it can be corrected, they were sexually violated,
and that is where the term 'corrective rape' comes from," said Nugent.

"There is a belief by men that if women are exposed to the right kind of heterosexual
intercourse, then it will 'fix' or change their sexual orientation," added Nugent.

She said in most of the cases, the women do not report the sexual assault because
they would rather keep their sexual orientation a secret.

"It is something that affects the community because of the fear of being 'outed'
and the fear of being further discriminated against. What we find is that a number
of persons are very reluctant to report incidents of sexual violence against their
person to the police, even though there seems to be a sort of shift, or some incremental
progress, in terms of how the police deal with diverse populations," declared Nugent.

TRICKED, ROBBED, RAPED

Executive director of the QCJ, Angeline Jackson, believes she was sexually assaulted
in 2009 because she is a lesbian. Jackson said she, along with a friend, had decided
to meet another female whom she had never met. Neither female thought much of it
when the mystery lady decided to send her 'stepbrother' to escort them to the agreed
venue.

"On the way there, we were held up, robbed at gunpoint, and I was forced to perform
oral sex on the gunman," said Jackson, who explained that a man armed with a gun
joined the stepbrother and assaulted them.

She was speared penile penetration because she was menstruating; however, her friend
was raped.

"I decided to take the matter to the police, and the police in St Ann told me I
should go back to church, so I went to the police in Spanish Town, who were a lot
more professional in handling the situation. It went through all the channels. They
did do an identification parade and the matter went to court and the person was
convicted; however, the sentence was overturned on appeal."

Jackson said her sexual orientation was not a secret and she believes the two men
worked with a woman and had made a habit of luring unsuspecting lesbians and then
raping them in an effort to 'correct' them.

"I met another survivor at the police station, who had also come in to do an ID
parade, and I also met another woman afterwards, who was adamant that she would
never report the matter to the police," said Jackson, as she noted that the QCJ
survey showed that 77 per cent of those who were sexually violated did not report
the matter to the police.

"Rape is a violation, and women are generally reluctant to report rape, much less
being a lesbian and a bisexual woman. In addition to the regular victim blaming,
you are now blamed for your orientation as the motivating factor," said Jackson.

Don't fight back, victim told herself

Twenty-nine-year-old Nicky, who was raped by a male while on a date five years
ago, said she did not report the matter to the police because she feared she would
have been blamed.

"I had a friend who was a police officer, and I called her and told her what happened,
and she said, 'You shouldn't have gone to his place. It is going to be your fault',"
said Nicky.

She said she started grappling with lesbian tendencies when she was young and started
having relationships with girls when she was 21.

On the night of the incident, she recalled being out with a group of female friends
at the movies when, in the middle of the show, a guy she had been putting off for
months called her.

"He said, 'I want to take you to dinner. Let's go out'. So I said, 'I am out with
my friends'. But I left my friends to go out and have dinner with this guy," recounted
Nicky.

TAKEN TO HIS HOUSE

After the meal, he decided he wanted to take her to his house. She consented after
he promised that no sex would be involved. Nicky said she had no interest in men;
however, upon reaching his house, he insisted that he wanted to have sex with her.

"I don't know how to go on a date with a guy. I don't know how to act - I feel
awkward; I feel like I am putting on a show," she explained.

"I was like, 'Why is this happening to me?'. It's like I was just standing out
of my body watching it (the rape). I couldn't do anything. I couldn't say anything.
The only thing I could remember was saying, 'Don't fight back' because I have been
told that if you fight back, you will get hurt more," she said.

Although she didn't go to the police, Nicky said she went to counselling for six
months and has been trying to put the horrible experience behind her. She believes
the incident drove her to become more open with her sexuality.

There is a belief by men that if women are exposed to the right kind of heterosexual
intercourse, then it will 'fix' or change their sexual orientation.

I don't know how to go on a date with a guy. … I feel like I am putting on a show.


Former CISOCA head not aware of any actual cases

Former head of the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse
(CISOCA) Superintendent Gladys Brown-Ellis said although the issue of corrective
rape was brought to her attention by members of the lesbian and bisexual community,
she had not come across any of these cases up to the point when she was transferred
from the unit in late 2013.

"We had meetings with them, and they had pointed out to us that they had 'X' amounts
of reports to them of people doing that to them because they want to straighten
them out, and they have labelled it 'corrective rape'," said Brown-Ellis.

"I did not get any official report of anybody coming in to say I was raped because
the man 'told me that he wanted to straighten me because I am a lesbian'," she said.

Brown-Ellis reasoned that the police cannot do anything about these cases unless
they are reported.

"It is a choice that they have [to make], and they have decided not to pursue it
through the courts, and we have to respect that, but until they report it, I doubt
anything else can be done," she said.

Jamaica is currently observing the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence,
which started on November 25 - International Day for the Elimination of Violence
against Women - and will end on December 10 - International Human Rights Day.